I Will Never Do the Whole 30 While Traveling Again

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But, I will not strictly adhere to the Whole 30 while traveling somewhere new again, at least not somewhere with a whole food culture that I haven’t yet experienced.

When I chose to do the January Whole 30, I knew that I had a trip to NYC planned over days 16, 17, and 18 of the Whole 30. I was really nervous that I would fail the Whole 30 while there, and spent a lot of time preparing myself for it, both mentally and by stocking up on Whole 30 emergency snacks.

Two weeks prior to my NYC departure, I purchased two flavors of RX bars, only to find out that they give me such awful stomachaches that they’re not worth eating. Upon realizing this, I ordered Primal Pacs, but they did not arrive in time for my trip. So, my emergency stockpile of food for the trip included 5 Lara Bars, a sandwich bag full of macadamia nuts, and roasted pumpkin seeds.

Dinner prior to boarding my bus to NYC was promising. We ate at Johnny Rockets and they were happy to accommodate my order for a burger with no bun, cheese, mayo, or ketchup. I snacked on a few pumpkin seeds on the bus, and by the time we got to NYC, it was time to check into the hotel and get some sleep for the next day. I know, I lead a glamorous life.

In the scheme of things, Saturday was okay, too. I had an herb omelette and bacon at brunch, though the omelette was terribly bland. Dinner was a seafood platter with roasted asparagus and vegetables (they ended up giving me broccoli and carrots) subbed for the rice. I had to all but beg the waiter to not give me rice, but the cook must have relented because my meal include plenty of green veggies and it was delicious.

Saturday evening, we had tickets to Drunk Shakespeare (to maintain my glamorous life, I also only attend dignified events), where I declined a free shot upon admission to the show. I didn’t mind declining a drink in this instance, or during the whole trip, because I really didn’t feel like I was missing out on some great NYC experience by not drinking. I was also fine not drinking during the show, as cocktails were $15! If you’re wondering, a seltzer water was $4 (highway robbery!).

Cue Sunday. I tagged along with a friend to a well-renowned bagel shop. I almost broke and failed the Whole 30, and in retrospect, I actually wish I had just cheated because those bagels looked perfect. But, I stayed strong and asked for two hard-boiled eggs and a black coffee, to which the guy working the counter incredulously asked me, “That’s it?!”. Yes, sadly, that’s it.

dreamstime.com A bagel that wants me to eat it.

dreamstime.com
A bagel that wants me to eat it.

For some context, this was my first proper trip to NYC. I’ve never had a true New York bagel, slice of pizza, cannoli, or slice of cheesecake before. Though I love to sight-see, traveling with my taste buds and stomach is equally important to me. I truly feel like I lost out on some of the experience of the trip. Going forward, when traveling an 80/20 rule would be far more sustainable for me.

I intend to make it up to myself, though. I’m already planning my next trip back, when I will fully take advantage of all of NYC’s excellent food offerings. And should I travel in the future, I’ll adhere to the tenets of the Whole 30 for most meals, but I will not forego trying a new local cuisine in the name of the Whole 30. Next time, I will eat the bagel and then pay for it with a day of bloatedness and a rumbly tummy, but it will be worth every. single. bite.

For which food will you always cheat?

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Ben’s Chili Bowl

Last week I saw The Milk Carton Kids, The Lumineers, and Old Crow Medicine Show perform at the 9:30 Club. I hadn’t heard of The Milk Carton Kids and was only vaguely familiar with the Lumineers, but I loved both openers a lot.  In addition to playing beautiful music, The Milk Carton Kids were really funny. Check them out, their music is free on their website right now. I really loved The Lumineers. I knew I was going to like them as soon as I saw that there was a woman in the band (the cellist & some vocals). Beyond that, The Lumineers were very upbeat and energetic. Right now they would be known for “Ho Hey,” but I think all of their stuff is great. Of course, Old Crow Medicine Show was great. The best part of my night was singing along with “Wagon Wheel” as loudly as I could.

Enough about the show. The real point of this post is that every time friends and I go to 9:30 Club for a show, we stop at Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street (which I have listed on Lori’s Guide to Food an Drink in DC). This time, I got chili cheese fries.

And Kendall got a chili cheeseburger.

Ben’s Chili Bowl never disappoints. I think that their most popular item is actually the chili half-smoke, which is a hot sausage topped with chili. I can’t eat the chili half-smoke AND chili cheese fries, so I always have to choose (or share). I could have gone ahead and eaten both, but that probably would have been a pretty uncomfortable concert.

In addition to the great food, it’s fun to peruse the photos of all of the famous people who have eaten at Ben’s Chili Bowl. A DC staple since 1958, many famous people have eaten there, including Nat King Cole, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bono, and President Obama.

Lori’s Guide to Museums & Monuments in DC

Here are the museums I’ve visited so far. Considering the sheer number of museums and monuments in DC, I’ve visited very few. It’s even less likely that I’ll get to them all.

Free Museums

American History Museum – A Smithsonian Institution museum. See a first ladies exhibit, the ruby slippers, and great rotating exhibits (Julia Child’s kitchen was on display the last time I visited).

Library of Congress – The Library of Congress is absolutely worth visiting and touring. The tours are free and docent-led. The paintings and sculptures are beautiful. If that’s not exciting, there’s also a Gutenberg Bible on display here.

National Postal Museum – A Smithsonian Institution museum located in the old post office museum near Union Station. The museum is dedicated to preserving postal service history.

Natural History Museum – A Smithsonian Institution museum. This museum is often crowded, but full of cool stuff like the Hope diamond, gem exhibits, dinosaurs, a giant squid, and race exhibits.

National Zoo – It’s been a long time since I’ve been to any other zoo, so I can’t compare the National Zoo to anything. It’s free to get in, and I think it’s pretty big. You can see lots of big cats, a giant panda, elephants, and zebras, to name a few animals. Also, it’s near plenty of great places to dine.

Smithsonian Castle – The Smithsonian Institution building, with displays of a little taste of each Smithsonian Museum.

Pay-to-get-in Museums*

Crime and Punishment Museum – Tickets are $20. Learn about the history of crime and punishment.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon** – Tickets are $15. Allegedly the most popular historic estate in the United States.

The International Spy Museum – Tickets are $20. I’ve been to this museum twice, and would certainly go back. The museum is devoted to spies throughout the world and throughout history.

National Geographic Museum – This museum doesn’t need an explanation – great rotating exhibits.

Newseum – Tickets are $22. I’ve been to this museum once and it was great. Exhibits include information about 9/11 and the Berlin Wall as well as fun exhibits devoted to First Dogs (Presidents’ dogs) or G-men.

President Lincoln’s Cottage – Tickets are $12. Located on the same grounds as the Soldiers’ Home, President Lincoln’s Cottage was the Lincoln Family’s residence for one-quarter of Lincoln’s presidency.

Monuments

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial – Located at the Tidal Basin.

George Mason Memorial – Located at the Tidal Basin, near the Jefferson Memorial.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial – Opened August 2011, located at the Tidal Basin.

National Mall – Spans the area from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol. Many Smithsonian museums are located along the mall, as well.

Tidal Basin – Partially man-made reservoir, home of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, and location of many monuments.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial – Located at the Tidal Basin.

Washington Monument – Located at the end of the National Mall, viewable from the Tidal Basin. Currently closed due to damage sustained during the August 2011 earthquake.

Tours

Bike and Roll Segway Tour – We bought a Groupon for this segway tour and it was a lot of fun. The tour guide was really knowledgeable, and I learned a lot about DC. I would recommend doing a tour like this toward the beginning of a visit so that you can get a lay of the land.

*I have gotten into each of these museums for half-price after snagging a Groupon or LivingSocial deal.

**I have not yet visited this museum

Belgium Trip – Food Edition

Belgian waffles are fantastic. Belgian waffles are not eaten on a plate with a fork, smothered in butter and drowned in syrup. No, Belgian waffles are eaten with your hand, using a napkin or a piece of paper to hold it, as you walk down the street. Unless you get a fancy waffle smothered in chocolate sauce and whipped cream, or ice cream, or fruit and chocolate, or any variation thereof. Then, you get a place and a teeny, tiny fork.

Our first waffle in Belgium, which was also the best

My favorite meal in Brussels was, by far, was La Fin de Siecle (which translates to “End of the Century,” by the way). It was located outside of the tourist part of town. In fact if Brussels has a hip part of town, this is where that restaurant was located. The restaurant’s name isn’t posted outside anywhere. It’s just one of those places that you know about, I guess. There was no formal menu, instead the menu was posted on the chalkboard. And it was cash only, of course. And, because we were in Europe, the draft beer was cheaper than a soda.

Inside La Fin de Siecle

I had the stoemp, which I understood to be a traditional Belgian dish of mashed potatoes and vegetables. It came with sausage and gravy, which were both delicious.

Stoemp

Kendall and Sam both got the rabbit, which was tasty.

Rabbit

Justin got the veal, which was delicious. Had I been able to try the stoemp and the veal before ordering, I’m not sure which I would have chosen.

Veal

We also ate at Chez Léon, one of two restaurants that was highly recommended for mussels and fries (moules frites). The mussels were good, the fries were not so great. Thankfully, we stopped at a late-night food vendor later and awesome fries with a spicy andalouse sauce. They serve them in a paper cone with a teeny, tiny fork (Brussels loves teeny, tiny forks). Sorry, no photos of the fries, but trust me, they were perfectly crispy and the sauce was just spicy enough.

Our drinks at La Fin de Siecle

Unfortunately, we did not eat any other sit-down meals. Fortunately, the rest of our meals consisted of waffles, beer, chocolate, and fries. But, that’s no so bad. It just means we probably spent more time than we probably should have in shops that look like the photo below.

Chocolate Fountains Everywhere

Belgium Trip – Beer Edition

I went to Brussels, Belgium last weekend. We were only there for two nights, but I had a fantastic time. Furthermore, all the food and beer was better than anything I can make myself, so the next few posts will probably be devoted to recapping Belgium. Unfortunately, I did not take that many pictures of my own, so I have to rely on the mercy of my travel mates to send along photos for me to use on the blog. For now, you’ll have to live with a  creative-commons photo of Floris Chocolat that I found, plus a few of my own.

Our first stop when we got to Brussels was Delirium Cafe. This place is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for its beer list, which is 2,000+ choices strong.

Photo by Accidental Hedonist at Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/accidentalhedonist/

I tried almost every Floris beer available at Delirium Cafe. Apple, raspberry, cherry, chocolate, honey, cactus, witbier (a white) and mango. The flavors I didn’t try were passion fruit and ninkeberry (which I think is mixed fruit). Maybe next time, right? It’s hard to choose a favorite because they were all delicious. Sam’s favorite was absolutely the honey. I’m torn between the apple, cherry, and chocolate. I also tried many other beers, like Chimay (IT WAS ON TAP!). My very favorite was Malheur Cuvée Royale – it was smooth and delicious and truly deserves the tagline “Champagne of beers,” because I’m not sure that anything can beat it.

Back to describing Delirium Cafe – it has many levels and separate sections, as it should with more than 2,000 beers to choose from in the place. My favorite was probably the basement where you sat at stools and used giant barrels as tables.

Not to mention, their logo is a pink elephant. How can you not love a pink elephant?

I should also point out that a Coors Light at Delirium Cafe (yes, they served Coors light) was more expensive than a Chimay. Un.Real. I would recommend that anyone in Brussels stop by this place.

Stay tuned for my posts on food in Brussels and sightseeing in Brussels.

Lori’s Guide to Food and Drink in DC

This page is devoted to a running list of restaurants, bars, brewpubs, and breweries in the DC metro area that I have visited and enjoyed (or in a few cases, intend to visit, though I will note if I haven’t been there yet). For other DC guides, see the Lori’s Guide to DC page.

Restaurants, Bars, and Brewpubs

Bagel Place – A family-owned and family-run bagel restaurant. The bagels are made from scratch. Great for breakfast or lunch. Yelp reviews here.

Ben’s Chili Bowl – Open since 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl is one of the top “must-go” restaurants when in DC. The food is messy and delicious. Yelp reviews here. My own post about Ben’s here.

Busboys and Poets – A local restaurant and book store. The food is good, so are the cocktails. Yelp reviews for original location here, there’s another location in Hyattsville.

Eggspectations – A restaurant that serves breakfast and brunch all day, as well as regular lunch and dinner entrees. Pretty good happy hour on week days. Yelp reviews here.

Founding Farmers – this restaurant aims to promote sustainable agriculture and celebrate the history of American cooking. There is a very extensive menu and everything I have tried here has been delicious. Besides, how can you turn down a restaurant that has “Bacon Lollis” on the menu? See the menu here and the Yelp reviews here.

Franklin’s Restaurant and Brewery – A local brewpub with pretty good food with a rotating selection of beer. Yelp reviews here.

Hanami – A Japanese and sushi restaurant. Prices are fine and the quality has been good, especially for College Park. Yelp reviews here.

Hill Country BBQ – Texas style BBQ. The BBQ is delicious, and so are the sides. Yelp reviews here.

Irene’s Pupusas – Salvadoran/Central American food. Cheap and delicious. Yelp reviews here.

The Jerk Pit – A Caribbean restaurant (specifically Jamaican). See the yelp reviews here.

Ledo Pizza – A local pizza chain that has been around since 1955. Ledo’s pizzas are rectangular and served on the tray. The crust is flaky and unique – definitely worth a try.

Quarry House Tavern – My favorite dive bar in the DC area. Great beer selection, extensive scotch list, and the best chicken tenders I’ve ever had. They also have deep-fried, double-stuffed oreo sundaes and Guinness floats. See the yelp reviews here.

Ray’s Hellburger Too – This is the Hellburger location that has wait service and seating. This is one of Sam’s absolute favorite restaurants (I’m pretty fond of it myself). The burgers are made from beef that has been aged in house and ground fresh. Burgers are made to order. See menu here and the Yelp reviews here. In addition to one of the best burgers out there, Ray’s onion rings are great and the milkshakes are fantastic.

Ray’s the Steaks – This is probably one of my favorite restaurants in the DC area. The steaks are aged and carved on site. You choose the steak that you want, and it comes with unlimited mashed potatoes (garlic or plain) and creamed spinach. Their crab bisque is to die for, so I always get that. See the menu here and the Yelp reviews here.

RFD (Regional Food and Drink) – A bar with 30+ beers on tap and more than 300 bottles from around the world. They also serve food. Yelp reviews here.

Samantha’s – This is another favorite restaurant. They have the best Mexican food I’ve ever had (though I have not eaten Mexican food in the US southwest, that may be better). The chips and salsa are great, and so are the margaritas. See the menu here and the Yelp reviews here.

Sardi’s – This is a Peruvian charbroiled chicken restaurant. The chicken is delicious (and the shrimp is great, too). Check the website for the menu and see the Yelp reviews here.

Siri’s Chef Secret – Thai restaurant with good prices and tasty food.

Swahili Village – An African restaurant (specifically Kenyan). They don’t have a website, but you can see the Yelp reviews here. They offer a sampler platter, so you can try a little bit of everything. Very flavorful, and a fun experience.

Tiffin – Indian restaurant. Everything I’ve tried here is good. I haven’t tried the buffet yet, but would like to. Yelp reviews here.

Desserts

Red Velvet Cupcakery – My favorite cupcakes in the DC area. Yelp reviews here.

Tangy Sweet – Frozen yogurt bar, as many toppings as you want for one price. Yelp reviews here.

Brewery Tours (within a day trip)

I have only toured the Dogfish Head and Heavy Seas breweries. However, I’m willing (and want) to tour any of the local breweries.

Heavy Seas – Brewed by Clipper City Brewing Co. Tour is free, but to sample you have to buy a $5 souvenir pint glass.

DC Brau Brewing Company – DC’s first production brewery in almost 60 years. Free tours and tastings most Saturdays.*

Dogfish Head Brewery – Tours are offered Tuesday-Saturday afternoons. Tours are free and include samples. The brewery is located in Milton, DE. The Dogfish Head Brewpub is located in Rehoboth Beach. The brewpub also offers daily tours at 4:30.

Flying Dog Brewery – Tours offered on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Tours are two hours long, cost $5, and include 5 samples.*

*I have not yet visited these breweries, but intend to do so as soon as possible.

A Pittsburgh Review

As promised, here are some of the details from my weekend in Pittsburgh. Considering that Sam and I were only there for two nights and two days, we managed to squeeze in a lot of fun things.

Coldstone Chocolate Ice Cream Cake

Upon our arrival, not only were we treated to some fantastic homemade chicken noodle soup, but Jackie had purchased a chocolate ice cream cake from Coldstone Creamery. Girl knows the way to my heart.

Fresh meats and cheeses!

On Saturday, we got to see a lot of the city. We stopped by Pittsburgh Public Market where we bought fresh meats and veggies to cook later for dinner.

My "Kolbassi" Sandwich

We then went to Primanti Bros for lunch. Touristy? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely. The sandwiches come with fries and coleslaw on the sandwich. Not too shabby. It’s probably best that I don’t live near a Primanti Bros, I’m not sure I could prevent myself from eating there ALL. THE. TIME. Not to mention, the amount of the check for four people (that is – four sandwiches, three pints of beer, and a coke) was the amount I’m used to seeing for two people to dine in the DC area.

Me and Jackie at Trinity Church

After a filling lunch of Primanti Bros sandwiches, we walked through Pittsburgh. We stopped by Trinity Church, which is Pittsburgh’s oldest unresconstructed landmark. It was really intricate and ornate. Dare I say that it could compete with some of the cathedrals that I’ve seen in Barcelona? Maybe not, but it was certainly the most beautiful thing to see in downtown Pittsburgh.

Check out how ornate that door is

We also drove to the top of Mount Washington. Mount Washington offers a beautiful view of the city, a view that I would try to make sure I took advantage of often if I lived in Pittsburgh.

View from Mount Washington

Did you guys know that Pittsburgh has 446 bridges? Cuz it does.

Looking a bit up river

That evening, after dining on our goods from the Pittsburgh Public Market, Sam and I had the pleasure of joining Jackie at the Pittsburgh Public Theater to see Shakespeare’s As You Like It. It was a great play, and Dave (Jackie’s boyfriend/actor) is super talented. After a quick drink at a local bar, we headed to the Carnegie Science Center for a laser show to Pink Floyd songs. I had no idea what to expect. Having never attended a laser show at the Carnegie Science Center before, I just assumed we would be standing. The laser shows are held in the planetarium, which has plenty of comfortable seating. I got to sit AND the show was a fun and new experience.

WOW, Saturday was a long day.

We did fewer things on Sunday, but it was just as enjoyable. We ate at Pamela’s Diner for breakfast. I had the California French Toast (basically, French toast made from raisin bread). Sam let me sample his Lyonnaise potatoes*. I don’t know what they do to those, but they’re fantastic. They’re kinda mashed, kinda fried, and they have plenty of flavor.

*Sorry, Dave, for interrogating you about the Lyonnaise potatoes. I just wanted to know what I was in for before going! Turns out that you were right… I just had to try them myself.

A George Washington Dinosaur

The last thing we did on Sunday was head to the Heinz History Center; this is a dinosaur dressed as George Washington at Heinz. Copenhagen has painted elephants all over the city, Pittsburgh has painted dinosaurs. Pretty awesome.

Me putting (fake) pickles in a jar - interactive exhibit!

The Heinz History Center is a GREAT museum! There was an exhibit titled Stars and Stripes: An American Story. The exhibit detailed the history of the United States flag, including variations of the U.S. flag throughout history and even a piece of fabric from Old Glory. The museum also had local artifacts preserved by local historical societies (like a bed that Lincoln slept in when he visited Pittsburgh), information about Mr. Rogers (yes, he’s from the Pittsburgh area!), a glass exhibit, and a large exhibit devoted to innovations, inventions, and important people from Pittsburgh. This museum is great, and has certainly earned its affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution.

Yelling at some kids on the bus

This last photo was too fun to not post. The Heinz museum had an old trolley on display that you were allowed to enter. This is Jackie doing her best bus driver impersonation.